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Sedans

Sedans

It’s hard to classify sedans these days. Some are luxurious; others are sporty.

But what do you look for when buying one? What kind of performance can you expect? How far can it go on a tank of gas? And, most importantly, can you afford the sticker price on a sedan?

Bankrate breaks down the options in this class of car based on these critical questions and chooses the best three models in each criterion. It’s up to you to pick the sedan that’s best for you.

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Nissan Versa

Nissan Versa

Starting MSRP: About $9,900

While classified as a subcompact, the Nissan Versa sedan offers a surprising amount of space. Its back seat is large for its size and it has 13.8 cubic feet of cargo space, yielding more passenger and cargo room than its competitors. The Versa is powered by a choice of two engines: a 107-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder or a 122-horsepower, 1.8-liter engine. Standard features include air conditioning, six air bags, power exterior mirrors, MP3 connectivity and an auxiliary, 12-volt power outlet. Top-of-the-line models, which start at about $16,500, also come with cruise control, power windows and door locks, speed-sensitive volume on the audio system meant to counteract road noise, and keyless entry and start.

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Chevrolet Cruze

Chevrolet Cruze

Starting MSRP: About $17,000

The all-new Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan replaces the Cobalt in Chevrolet’s lineup. Sold overseas since 2008, the Cruze is powered by a 136-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder or a turbocharged, 138-horsepower, 1.4-liter four-cylinder, depending on the trim package.

While the horsepower difference between the two engines is minimal, Chevrolet says that the turbocharged engine has more torque for better performance while still offering good fuel economy. Standard features on all Cruze models include air conditioning, antilock brakes, 10 air bags, MP3 connectivity and an electronic stability system.

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Kia Optima

Kia Optima

Starting MSRP: About $18,000

With a redesign for 2011, Kia’s midsized sedan has become more powerful and more stylish. Seating five, the new Optima has a sleeker look on the outside and a more driver-oriented interior design, including a center control panel angled toward the driver.

When it goes on sale this fall, the Optima will feature a choice of two engines: a 200-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder or a turbocharged version of the same 2.4-liter engine that produces 274 horsepower. A hybrid version of the Optima is expected in early 2011. Standard features include air conditioning, a cooled glove box, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, antilock brakes, six air bags, an electronic stability system and active front head restraints which automatically adjust during a collision to provide support to reduce whiplash.

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Infiniti M56

Infiniti M56

Specs: 420-horsepower, 5.6-liter V-8

Redesigned for 2011, the Infiniti M luxury sedan is now more powerful and more fuel-efficient. With a starting price of about $57,600, the Infiniti M56 is powered by a 420-horsepower, 5.6-liter V-8. The M37, which starts at about $46,200, is powered by a 330-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6.

Both M classes are paired with a seven-speed, automatic transmission and are available in either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Standard features include leather seating, dual climate control, power front seats with heat and cooling functions, electronic stability and traction control systems, keyless entry with push-button start, six air bags and active front head restraints that automatically adjust during a collision to provide support to reduce whiplash.

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Lincoln MKS

Lincoln MKS

Specs: 355-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6

With more interior space than many of its competitors, the Lincoln MKS is a strong contender in the luxury sedan segment. Priced to start at about $41,300, the MKS comes with a 273-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 or a turbocharged, 355-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6, both of which are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual-shifting capability.

All MKS models come equipped with dual-zone, automatic climate control, leather seating, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, antilock brakes, electronic stability and traction control, heated front and rear seats, and a reverse-sensing system that warns the driver of potential hazards when in reverse. There is a choice of either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

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Volvo S60

Volvo S60

Specs: 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter I-6

For more budget-minded shoppers who want performance, luxury and safety, the new Volvo S60 sedan is worth a serious look. Priced at about $37,700, the redesigned S60 features completely new styling inside and out. The initial production models will be powered by a 300-horsepower, turbocharged, 3.0-liter, inline, six-cylinder engine, and additional engine options may be offered at a later date.

Standard features include all-wheel drive, a 60/40 split-folding back seat, dual-zone climate control, six air bags, electronic stability and traction control, and active front head restraints that can reduce whiplash injury in a collision. It also has City Safety, Volvo’s system that provides braking assistance and can even apply the brakes at slow speeds to help avoid a rear-end collision or to lessen its impact.

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Chevrolet Volt

Chevrolet Volt

Fuel economy: Mileage estimate not available at time of publication

Chevrolet aims to change the way we think about “green” cars with the introduction of its Volt sedan late this year. The Volt is an electric car capable of going supposedly up to 40 miles on a charge with a gasoline engine that kicks in only when the battery power runs down to about 30 percent. The combination of gasoline and battery power gives the Volt a range of about 340 miles on a full tank.

Because most Americans commute less than 40 miles per day, Chevrolet’s theory is that Volt owners won’t use the gasoline engine for most trips and instead plug the Volt into a standard wall outlet to charge the car fully in six to 10 hours. Chevrolet estimates that the cost to charge the four-seater will be about 80 cents per day on national average, using less electricity than the typical refrigerator.

Initially, Chevrolet Volts will be sold in select states, but Chevrolet says the Volt will be sold in all 50 states by early 2011. Exact pricing has yet to be announced, but Chevrolet estimates the Volt will have a starting MSRP of about $40,000 and will qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit.

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Toyota Camry Hybrid

Toyota Camry Hybrid

Fuel economy: 31 city/35 highway mpg

The fact that the Toyota Camry Hybrid sedan looks almost identical to the gasoline-only Camry is precisely what makes it stand out. Priced about $1,300 more than a similarly equipped, gasoline-only Camry, the Camry Hybrid starts at about $26,400, yet its 147-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor will save you at the pump thanks to its 31 city/35 highway mpg rating.

Camry Hybrid features slightly more aggressive front-end styling than the gasoline-only Camrys. The interior styling is very similar except for a gas-mileage gauge replaces the tachometer that’s in gasoline-only models and the trunk space is slightly smaller due to the high-voltage battery pack. The Toyota Camry Hybrid also has more upscale standard features than the base, gasoline-only Camry. Those include electronic stability and traction control, MP3 connectivity, one-touch up/down power windows and seven air bags.

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Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta

Fuel economy: 29 city/40 highway mpg

This brand-new, subcompact sedan from Ford is actually one of the top-selling cars in Europe. In a more upscale version for the U.S. market, the Ford Fiesta is powered by a 119 horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that gets 29 city/40 highway mpg when equipped with the automatic transmission and what Ford calls the Super Fuel Economy package, or SFE.

Non-SFE models with the automatic transmission achieve 29 city/38 highway mpg, while manual transmission models get 28 city/37 highway mpg; manual isn’t as good as automatic in this instance. With a starting MSRP of about $13,300, all Fiesta models come standard with air conditioning, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, MP3 connectivity, height-adjustable driver’s seat, seven air bags and electronic stability control.

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